Archive | July, 2007

Best Custard?

31 Jul


Hibbard’s in Lewiston?

Anderson’s? Tasty Treat in Lockport?

Rochester favorite Abbott’s in Bill Gray’s in Clarence?

I love Hibbards, and make a point to stop every time we’re up in that neck of the woods in summertime. I tried Abbott’s for the first time the other day, and it was magnificent.

Advertisements

Safe?

31 Jul

As seen on Drudge.

WTF kind of advert is this?

Buffalo Rising?

31 Jul

The redesigned Buffalo Rising Magazine hit the streets yesterday after a short hiatus. The new design is much different than both the original quarterly that built the company and the confusing tabloid version that was launched when the magazine went monthly.

The new tagline for the magazine? “Nothing happens here that’s not on our screen.” Or, more succintly, “You already read all of this on the website last month.” (Well, except for a couple of things…which I’ll cover later in this article.)

buffalo rising magazine

The articles are shortened versions of posts to Buffalo Rising Online and the pages are also sprinkled with reader comments from the website. Essentially, the new BRM serves as a marketing tool to get people to visit the website and as a vehicle to add value to advertising contracts. Not a bad model, I guess.

What’s notable about the magazine and the website, is what you find when you do a little “digging”.

As described by Co-President and Publisher George Johnson in the latest edition of the magazine,

“We break news of New Buffalo online. Everyday, you can find out about development, neighborhood improvement, grassroots initiatives, cultural and community events, food and the city’s restaurant scene. It’s our beat. It’s what we do best. It’s what we love.”

What’s missing in his description of BR is that they also host discussion about heroin, dog sodomy, and muggings in the city…

Before we get to that, let’s back up a little to frame the discussion properly.

Buffalo Rising eschewed the typical media mindset of dealing with political issues and focused on iterative economic progress and events within the City of Buffalo. They would embark on building a business model around the selling of hope. They built a loyal cadre of readers after asking for wide support from the established blogosphere at their inception.

As Co-Founder and Co-President Newell Nussbaumer told Donn Esmode in 2006 “Unlike a newspaper, we don’t have to cover everything,” Nussbaumer said. “We can focus on community-building issues. We fill a niche that people want to explore.”

BuffaloRising also has a mission and editorial direction and it is markedly different (not better nor worse) than ours. They have always been “hyperlocal” and exceedingly positive.

Nor does the company want to veer out of city centers towards the suburbs – which pretty much rules out serving the huge campus of SUNY Buffalo in suburban Amherst. “The City is the aspirational center,” said Johnson. We are identifying stakes in the community. We want user exhaust.”

BuffaloRising Online (BRO_1.0) grew out of a quarterly magazine that highlighted local business, mostly on the Elmwood Strip, and after nearly a dozen issues, they added a free Blogspot blog that also highlighted positive news and goings-on within the geographic boundaries of the City of Buffalo.

The mission was to spread the good news about what’s cool and happening about Buffalo. It was a good idea and one that served to counteract the never ending drumbeat of negativity found in the pages of The Buffalo News.

BRO_2.0, did away with the Blogspot blog, enhanced the design, and made the whole outfit a bit more corporate, but what didn’t change was that it was fueled by a dedicated cadre of Buffalo lovers who wrote about the city and their passion for living in it.

br_new

The new site served the purpose to build an online buzz about Buffalo. They had made the leap from being a member of the online community into the local vernacular. BRO and the face of it, Newell Nussbaumer, were becoming players in the local media scene and in the city as a whole.

Building upon that success, George and Newell brought in a business partner, Barry Heneghan of Think Financial, a local private student loan company. With an influx of angel investment cash, Hyperlocal Media opened swanky new offices in the Cobblestone District, launched BRO_3.0, and switched from a quarterly magazine to a monthly tabloid with a style borrowed from European alternative newspapers.

One thing that seemed obvious to observers was that the loyal cadre of contributors who joined Newell and George at the start of the company were no longer part of the new, capitalized Buffalo Rising. Most of the original contributors, designers, graphic artists, and supporters were replaced by an initial wave of new hires. Now, most of the members of that initial wave of new hires have been replaced – for the most part – by unpaid interns who are in it for the resume boost, not the mission.

While the magazine was “down for upgrades”, there was a renewed focus on building revenue from the website. In order to build revenue online, ad sales needed to increase and one way to ensure that happens is to increase traffic numbers. Which is not a small task when you are already established.

So, how does one obtain a general uptick in traffic? Optimizing your website for search engines and utilizing social networking sites like Digg, Facebook, Reddit, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and MySpace would be a pretty good place to start.

A recent tour of Digg.com, the 97th most visited site on the web and the leading social networking and news linking site for creative young professionals, paints a pretty interesting picture.

Since at least mid-June, BRO has been posting negative stories about Buffalo that are saved to a hidden cache page and not posted to or made mention of on the main pages that we are all familiar with.

I didn’t read about the YWCA heroin-at-daycare case on BRO, did you? Yet here it is, and it was Dugg by nearly two thousand users. Which put it on the frontpage of one of the web’s most visited pages, seen in the neighborhood of 200,000 times.

Here’s a story BRO didn’t post (but did) about the man who was beaten with his own prosthetic leg. I especially love the accompanying graphic. It’s been posted to Digg.

To top it off, BRO has even posted stories from way outside city limits – Lockport, County of Niagara, is representing on BRO’s cache site, with sodomizing pitbulls galore. Digg? Check. Over 1,000 Diggs, to be precise.

The stories were submitted to Digg by “Diggleague”, who is identified only as “Alex B.” While it is not obvious that Alex is an employee or intern at BuffaloRising, the fact that he knew the location of these hidden pages would indicate that he is.

When asked about the issue, George Johnson responded, but it wasn’t on the record and I’m not willing to post the details. However, I will say that he didn’t deny the effort to bump traffic numbers.

Also, after being contacted by WNYMedia.net, the original articles were removed from the cached pages on BRO and replaced by new ones with a caption that reads, “Discover up-beat stories, events, and more about Buffalo, NY anytime. Morning. Noon. Night.”

So, while promoting the wonders of Buffalo to the local audience, Buffalo Rising is perfectly content to promote some very ugly, very negative stories about Buffalo (and Lockport, County of Niagara), to a separate worldwide audience in order to artificially inflate web statistics.

Buffalo Rising was founded on core principles of hyperlocal city-only puffery. That it would betray those principles for an artificially manipulated bump in traffic is truly disappointing for those of us who thought that BRO’s principles were founded in ideals, not ad sales.

Original Heroin In Daycare Screenshot

Original Amputee Screenshot

Original Dog Rape Story

Walk Around the Block

31 Jul


All Things Buffalo gives us a glimpse at the antithesis of the Buffalo Blogosphere. Hint: Zubaz. Mullet. Channel 2 viewer forum.

A new addition to the network is Buffalo Expatriate, which touches mostly on international affairs. The Government of Sudan has been ordered to pay almost $8 million to the families of sailors killed in the attack on the USS Cole. Darfur. Pakistan. Expat’s got everything.

Michelle’s back online with updates and radio shows. Give her some love here.

Red’s been on the Thruway often lately, and he offers his three rules for Thruway driving. Number 2 shouldn’t be a rule – but a law.

Shades of Gray asks you to guess which dilapidated Main Street he displays pictures of. The answer’s a bit shocking.

PaulDub links to Jimmy Griffin’s website, which features things Jimmy wrote as recently as 10 years ago. Go get ’em, Jimmy!

Don’t forget to check out the Sports Road Trip, which recently ported itself over to WNYMedia.

Urban Denizen challenges the oft-repeated notion that Buffalo is one of the “best-planned” cities in the history of the world.

The Smart

30 Jul

smart1.jpg

The Smart is a unique two-seater that was born out of a joint venture between Swatch and Mercedes-Benz. Swatch dropped out of the program soon thereafter, and the tiny carlets have been zipping around European cities for about 7 years now. The rationale behind the Smart was uniquely European. In Europe, cars have historically been smaller than in North America primarily because gas prices are so high, but also because European cities are rather dense and not always hospitable to larger vehicles.

Smart is designed to be parked nose-in when most other cars are parallel parked. It makes the most sense in an urban environment. Take it on the open road, and it becomes a pretty silly proposition, in spite of its reasonably good mileage. It is not a road-going car.

The smart fortwo will be launched in the USA with gasoline engines. The three cylinder engine has capacity of one litre and delivers 45 kW, 52 kW or 62 kW (61 hp, 71 hp or 84 hp). At the time the article was written the exact US engine model has not yet been determined. The vehicle has a maximum speed of 90 miles per hour. All engines are linked to an automated manual five-speed transmission from Getrag.

Smart has not been a big success for the company until recently known as Daimler-Chrysler, and a planned entry to the US market with a crossover was nixed in 2005, and the Mitsubishi-built forFour was quickly killed off. The forTwo is rather expensive for its size and utility – about $15,000, given that you can get a base Kia or Hyundai for a lot less.

In addition, most Smarts in Europe and Canada are sold with a tiny common-rail diesel engine, which gives it upwards of 60 MPG. The diesel will not be available in the US when Smart fortwos go on sale. We will instead get a 3-cylinder gas engine that will get about 40 MPG.

A Toyota Yaris pulls 40 MPG for about $11,000 and is on sale now. It even has a back seat.

Buffalo Rising posted about the Smart and a preview event that Mercedes-Benz of Buffalo is putting on. This comment stood out:

This is a fun car to drive. I had one for a couple of months when I was in Europe for business last year. Mercedes has had a difficult time bringing these cars to America, primarily because of the strong lobbying efforts of our legacy car manufacturers and labor unions. They pose a threat to the status-quo in American autombiles, they are the antithesis of the Hummer or Yukon.

I am unaware of there being any sort of “lobbying effort” to prevent the importation of the Smart by “legacy” car manufacturers or labor unions. Firstly, Smart was until recently owned by the same company that owns Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep. It doesn’t get much more “legacy” than that. Furthermore, while Smarts are the “antithesis of the Hummer or Yukon” (one’s a marque, one’s a model – but who’s counting), the reason they haven’t been imported to the US is that they’ve had disappointing sales in Europe, and the little company has never been profitable. Why expand into a very competitive market with a strange French-made car that is only practical in the densest of US cities when it can’t even perform well in its core market?

Silly people sometimes say silly things.

With that said, Smart will do well in cities such as Boston, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco where traffic is dense and parking is at a super-premium. It makes absolutely zero sense in Buffalo. Get a Yaris, Kia Rio, or Hyundai Accent – the last two cost less than $10,000, get great mileage, have back seats, and even a trunk.

If you want mileage, you can always opt for a hybrid Prius or Civic, or wait a year and pick up a proper diesel, which will easily top 40 MPG, and approach 50-60 MPG.

Color Photography ca. 1900

30 Jul

That picture was taken during Tsarist Russia by a man named Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who lived from 1863-1944.

It was not digitally painted or otherwise colorized. It is a primitive color photograph using a cumbersome, but effective method detailed here.

Essentially, it was a three-lensed camera that took a black and white image with a red, blue, and green filter over each lens. When the images are developed, they appear mildly different. When a red, then green, then blue filter are placed over the image, the colors appear. The photograph above had this done with digital filters instead.

But what is so striking is the full, bright color of a 100-odd year-old image which really brings that period to life more than any black and white image can do. This is unbelievably cool.

County Executive Race: If held today, “other” would win

30 Jul

siren.gif
From Channel 2, the first poll is little more than a beauty pageant:

What is you opinion of Chris Collins?
8% Favorable
9% Unfavorable
25% Neutral
58% Unfamiliar
Error + or – 4.7%

83% have no opinion of Chris Collins. He’s got a lot of money. He might want to start spending it.

What is you opinion of James Keane?
19% Favorable
21% Unfavorable
32% Neutral
29% Unfamiliar
Error + or – 4.7%

Keane’s numbers are pretty even across the board, which means it takes less effort for him to bump his positives.

What is your opinion of Paul Clark?
28% Favorable
15% Unfavorable
26% Neutral
32% Unfamiliar
Error + or – 4.7%

Clark is running lots of TV ads which are all positive, so naturally his positive numbers are up – not a moment too soon, considering the primary is about 6 weeks away.

What is you opinion of Jimmy Griffin?
35% Favorable
37% Unfavorable
19% Neutral
9% Unfamiliar
Error + or – 4.7%

Everyone knows Jimmy Griffin, and the like/dislike is in a statistical dead heat.

Do you feel you have a good choice between qualified candidates in the Erie County Executive election? Or not?

36% Have a Good Choice
46% Do Not
18% Not Sure
Error + or – 4.7%

46% wish someone else was in the race right know, and only 36% are happy with Collins/Keane/Clark/Griffin. Ugh.

Ripped Off

29 Jul

I have to confess that I kind of don’t get why it matters whether Paul Clark uses an 89 cent pen or not. In fact, it sounds like he got ripped off, and calls his fiscal conservatism into question. The “89 cent pen” is a Paper Mate Write Bros. Stick pen, most likely medium blue. That pen is available at Office Max at $1.09 for a dozen. That’s nine cents. Why is a CPA paying 89 cents for a 9 cent pen? Is the county doing the same thing?

Things I’d Like to See Built

28 Jul


1. High Speed Rail around Lake Erie
You know how Joe Bruno is extraordinarily excited about building a high-speed rail line between Buffalo and New York City, essentially tracking the Thruway? He thinks it might help revitalize upstate to enable travelers to zip alongside the Thruway at speeds approaching 200 MPH.

Bruno, of course, can watch the whole thing from his helicopter.

But what we really ought to build is a high-speed rail line between Toronto, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Erie, and Cleveland – possibly even making it a loop around to Detroit and London, ON.

Why, Pundit? You ask.

  • These cities have more in common and market tourism to each other all the time.
  • I-90 is a drag, tolls at the NYS border are a drag, the bridges at the border are a drag
  • Canadians are doing, or might be doing, a lot more travel to the states now that their dollar is practically at par, and our sales taxes are about half of those in Ontario
  • I don’t know if you know this, but Canadians love the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. It is significantly cheaper to park & fly to other parts of the US, and in some cases abroad, from Buffalo than from Toronto, where taxes and other fees can practically double the price of a ticket. A high speed rail link from Toronto to the BNIA would be popular, as would a Metro Rail link between downtown and the airport.
  • 2. Welcome Centers
    Right off the QEW in Fort Erie is a brand-new Ontario welcome center. Right off the 420 in Niagara Falls is an Ontario welcome center. Right off the QEW in Niagara-on-the-Lake, right before the skyway, is an Ontario welcome center. They all are jam-packed with information about the various provincial regions, give out free maps, change money, and they even have toilets.

    A visitor coming to the US from Canada won’t see a similarly convenient welcome center until the Pembroke or Angola rest areas on the Thruway, depending on their direction of travel. You want to draw people to Wright buildings in Buffalo, trendy restaurants in Allentown, or Little Italy in Niagara Falls, USA? How about a welcome center right off the I-190 within a few miles after crossing the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge? I’m sure one could be located in a conspicuous and easy-to-reach spot off the Peace Bridge, as well. The lack of effective marketing to day trippers and other tourists who are flocking here due to our weak dollar is shameful.

    3. High-speed toll lanes on the Thruway.
    The 407 in Toronto is a privately owned toll road. It is ridiculously expensive, but it uses a revolutionary toll collection system. It will read a dedicated transponder, or it will take a picture of your license plate. Either way, at no time do you need to slow down to pay the toll – the system sends a bill for the toll to the address where your car is registered. There’s sort of no excuse for the Thruway not to use a similar system. It would ease the traffic flow by leaps and bounds, and might even obviate lots of the opposition to relocation of the Williamsville tolls eastward to Newstead or Pembroke.

    4. The Peace Bridge

    5. Canal Side

    6. Something on the Outer Harbor

    7. Not so much built, but for God’s sake, would it kill the DOT to synchronize traffic lights on major thoroughfares such as Delaware Avenue and Genesee Street?

    If it’s Sunday, it’s Hardline with Kevin Hardwick

    28 Jul

    Sunday the 29th on WBEN AM-930 from 10am to 12pm, the Professor’s in-studio guest will be Sheriff Tim Howard, who will no doubt explain why he shouldn’t hire some more deputies for the county jail and holding center to cut down on extremely high overtime expenses. I’ll call in around 10:15-ish.